TYRONE boss Mickey Harte slammed the "flawed" championship system as an "absolute disgrace" after his side’s shock defeat to Dublin.
While emphasising that he was not detracting from the Dubs’ success – which he attributed to their workrate and superior economy in attack – Harte is adamant that provincial champions are at a serious disadvantage against teams that had learned from defeat and progressed through the qualifiers. Indeed he noted that the backdoor route had served his own teams well in the past en route to All-Ireland glory.
Tyrone experienced the other side of the coin on this occasion and Harte wondered why change had not occurred before now, given the frequency with which provincial winners are overturned in quarter-finals. "It makes me question the system, which I’ve said a number of times," Harte asserted.
"The system is flawed. It was supposed to be changed at Congress this year. I don’t know what people were doing when they were there but it’s a very stark flaw in the system.
"Why is it that the people who win their provinces get no second chance and everybody else does?
"I said that before today. It’s wrong and I think it needs to be addressed. It’s an absolute disgrace that the people who win the provincial championships are disadvantaged. That makes no sense.’’
And Harte has a solution which he believes is fair and easy to apply.
"Have the provincial champions play each other. Have the two losers play the best two qualifiers and the two winners get through to the semi-final. That’s what you should do with champions. You shouldn’t be putting them into that place where they can never experience the taste of defeat where others have.
"We can’t do anything about the taste of defeat this year. The people who lose earlier, they can get that feeling over them and respond to it. We can’t and that’s not fair."
He was not taking away from Dublin’s victory though.
"It’s all about how they played, the way they stayed the game, got the scores that mattered and how efficient they were."
Harte agreed that the result may have been different had Martin Penrose’s shot just before half time struck the net rather than woodwork.
"If we went in four points up I think we’d have been in a very strong position. In the past things went for us and because of that we got a lot of victories. Today it went a bit against us and we have to lick our wounds."
But it was Dublin who converted their opportunities while Tyrone’s astonishing second half profligacy left them vulnerable. Harte was impressed with what Pat Gilroy had done in such a short space of time.
"I suppose it was a case of two teams working very hard and making life hard for each other. And one team were that little bit more efficient around the goals than the other. That was probably the bottom line.
"I can’t fault our players for how they worked. When you create as many chances as we did you mostly win games. That didn’t happen and you could say some of it was poor finishing. But I think also an element of that is the amount of pressure the opposition put on you, so that’s credit to Dublin.
"We’ve seen them come with a new style this year and they played that throughout the league. Their game has improved a lot, even since we played them in the league when they beat us. I think they were a much more solid force today. We prepared as well as we did for any game and that tells the tale that Dublin were very good."